epa-efeChilpancingo, Mexico

Peasants in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero who have long subsisted by growing opium poppies want to get out of the illicit trade because it's no longer profitable.

Growers told EFE that in the last two years the going price of a kilo (2.2 lbs) of opium gum - the raw material of heroin - has fallen from 20,000 pesos ($1,059) to 5,000 pesos ($265), which is barely enough to cover their costs.

A week ago, the growers took the extreme step of seizing a group of soldiers who were carrying out an operation near the Campo Morado community as a way of forcing officials to come out and meet with them.

Campo Morado lies deep in the mountains and is four hours by road from the nearest large town, a treacherous journey that makes moving crops to market both difficult and expensive.

The top authority in Campo Morado, Ricardo Alarcon Alvarez, told EFE Wednesday that poppy farmers do not oppose the government or efforts by law enforcement and the military to eradicate the illegal crop.

Although the new administration of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has raised the possibility of legalizing some drugs, such as marijuana, the poppy trade remains completely illegal.

"They can destroy the plantations if they want, but they should provide us with (alternative) production projects before they destroy the poppies," Alarcon said.

"We want them to give us productive projects, to change the way we work. We know that poppy is worthless. We want them to substitute productive projects for poppies, we don't want to plant that anymore," Campo Morado resident Artemio Marquez Lucena said.

He said that the pesticide spayed from military planes to eradicate the poppies likewise kills legitimate crops and poisons the fish in area rivers.

People in the region also blame the aerial fumigation for a sharp increase in the number of cancer cases.

Ananias Flores Benitez, who lives in Renacimiento, told EFE that the region is neglected because the government has become accustomed to the traditional self-reliance of the mountain people.

But the policy of neglect is no longer viable as residents need help from the government to move away from growing poppies.

"If the government gives us those great benefits, we, as citizens, will withdraw from producing drugs," Flores said. "But we want answers, we want solutions and support from the government."

By Francisca Meza Carranza